Monday, October 10, 2016

FLOW Week #2

Photo © Don Seymour
I met the buses last Friday as they delivered students back to Bath Middle School. There were abundant smiles and a lot of positive energy as the kids charged down the stairs. I got high-five after high-five and heard "it was really fun!' over and over.

I didn't get to go on this round of trips, so I don't have any specific anecdotes to share, but I can say that this group enjoyed another week of perfect weather. The skies were clear and the temperature was just about perfect. 

Photo © Don Seymour

This was the last week of trips for Bath Middle School. The final week of FLOW 2016 wraps up with 42 8th graders from Woolwich Central School next week.

Photo © Don Seymour
Photo © Don Seymour
Earlier this week, I pulled an outdoor clothing catalog out of my mailbox. Along with the usual stunning photos of people adventuring in breathtaking landscapes, it included a number of thoughtful essays about the benefits of getting kids outside. There is a growing body of empirical evidence linking outdoor adventure experiences for adolescents to increased confidence, improved ability to weigh outcomes, and overall greater happiness.
Photo © Don Seymour

Photo © Don Seymour
Photo © Don Seymour

As FLOW continues to establish itself as an integral part of the fabric of middle school at RSU 1, our hope is that the experience helps kids successfully navigate this dynamic period of their lives. By providing scaffolded lessons in appropriate risk taking, we hope we are quieting those teenage brains from so many distractions, and getting them primed to learn.
Photo © Don Seymour

Monday, October 3, 2016

Trail Work Collaboration with KELT

This is the third year of FLOW, and from the outset our objective has been for every 8th grade student to have the opportunity to spend a week canoeing and camping in our local watershed. In order to accomplish this, though, a great deal of coordination and planning has to take place. Local organizations and individuals have donated money and clothing. The athletic director and coaches have altered the sports schedule and practice expectations. Teachers have had to be flexible and stand in for their colleagues who are out on the trip. And, as we hoped, the participation rate has increased each year. 

Participation Rates
  • 2014 -- 65%
  • 2015 -- 76%
  • 2016 -- 82%

But even with all that work, we expect that for some kids FLOW might be too far outside their comfort zone. Or maybe sudden, unforeseen circumstances might come up, making it impossible for them to be away from home. Monica Wright, a science teacher at Bath Middle School, had the idea for students not attending FLOW to do service projects on the local trail system right in Bath. So we reached out to the Kennebec Estuary Land Trust (KELT) to collaborate on meaningful work that still got kids outside, but allowed them to go home each night. 
Mr. Meserve helping students dismantle a rotten bridge.
The Whiskeag Trail, a popular five mile walk traveling from the YMCA to The Thorne Head Preserve at the northern tip of Bath, had a number of bridges that had fallen into disrepair. KELT's trail building expert, Cheri Bruneault, worked with twenty of our students to replace four bridges on the trail over the course of eight days.
Siting the supports for the new bridge.
The Whiskeag Trail passes right by Bath Middle School, so students were able to walk to the work site for the first week. For week two, they took a short bus ride to a more distant section of the trail. A teacher from BMS accompanied them each day.
Preparing the site on the opposite bank.
The first task was carrying the lumber into the site. It took teamwork and perseverance to lug the materials out there. Next was the dismantling of the old bridges, and finally building the new ones.
Laying down the planking on the bridge surface.
Getting a lesson in planking the bridge surface.
There is a lot of good that can come from experiences like these. There are the building skills like how to measure, saw and hammer. There is also the realization that hard work and perseverance can result in great accomplishments. And there is the sense of pride that comes from doing work to benefit others. But also, many of these kids had never been on this trail. It travels through beautiful areas of green space right in our city limits, and is easily accessible. Now that they have been on the Whiskeag and helped to build its trails, these kids might see it as a resource for them to visit and enjoy.

Within hours of completing the fourth bridge, mountain bikers and hikers were already happily trying them out.
Mountain biker trying out one of the new bridges.
FLOW is more than just a canoe trip that takes kids out on the water for four days. It's also an important collaboration between community organizations, families, businesses and schools. Through these experiences, students learn about and take pride in the place they call home. Thanks to everyone who helped make the work on The Whiskeag Trail possible. We hope to see you out there!